Monday, January 09, 2012

USAT | Breaking news!!! SVPs closing in on VPs

The following graphic represents the growing size of USA Today's executive ranks since summer 2010, a period when the newspaper has been reorganizing to get leaner (?) and meaner.

[August 2010 vs. today: reorg executive bloat]

USA Today announced this morning that it's hired a former Sony Pictures and Univision employee as senior vice president of strategic accounts. Dan Thomas will be responsible for overseeing an advertising sales team focused on new business acquisition, the management-heavy newspaper said in a statement.

Confusingly in an incestuous sort of way, Thomas will report to another SVP: Lee Jones, who has overall ad sales responsibility. Can't wait to see that organizational chart!

But perhaps more important in USAT's executive title arms race, Thomas brings to at least eight the number of SVPs vs. 10 mere VPs -- all hired or promoted since Publisher Dave Hunke announced a reorganization in August 2010. In any upcoming game of dodgeball, the SVPs could soon be at parity with the VPs.

Also! Watch out executives whose last names begin with the letter "M," because those in the "D" group are right behind you.

How do I know this? Because there are now so many of these execs -- at least 23 in all -- that I've been forced to create a spreadsheet just to track all of them. To wit:

Title breakdown
  • VPs: 10 
  • SVPs: 8 
  • Presidents: 2 
  • General managers: 2 
  • EVPs: 1
Alpha breakdown
  • Number execs whose last name starts with A: 1
  • B: 2
  • C: 2 
  • D: 3
  • E: 1
  • F: 1
  • J: 1
  • K: 2
  • L: 1
  • M: 4
  • P: 1
  • S: 2
  • T: 1
  • W: 1
Thomas scores a "2," because he worked at Univision when Gannett's über-influential Chief Marketing Officer Maryam Banikarim was there in 2002-2005.

For comparison, USAT SVP of marketing Sandra Micek gets a "1," because she and Banikarim co-worked more recently, when they were both at NBC Universal during 2009-2011.

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. We have less than half the VPs we had before all the fun started in June of 2008 and that's still too many. And MEs and AMEs? You couldn't swing a cat in the newsroom without hitting one. We're probably down to half now.

  2. Just proves that old adage: It's not what you know, it's WHO you know ...

  3. This situation at USAToday would be funny if it weren't so sad.

    Hope someone warned Dan Thomas he was joining the most dysfunctional management team in the entire media industry.

    Welcome aboard the loony train.

  4. Maureen Consavage is terrible. A light weight. How the heck did she get elevated to VP?

    Jim, your spreadsheet is a good link.

  5. Watch your back Lee Jones: Banikarim's pattern points to hiring her "friends" and firing people at Gannett/USAT who were here before she arrived.

    She is ruthless.

    Lee Jones and Dan Thomas with the same title? Banikarim obviously has Jones on her hit list.

  6. I score a "2" on the Six Degrees of Maryam Banikarim™ scale because I worked with Susie Ellwood in Little Rock, Ark.

  7. Out of all these VPs and SVPs, how many are from news and edit?

  8. When will the SVP of Swagger be available? I want that job!

  9. We still all miss the power train VPs that have since been swatted out of here. Lori Erdos is gone and replaced by a complete lightweight in the sales division. It has taken three VP/directors (and that's just so far) to replace the job Ed Cassidy was doing.

    Maryam's next step will be to squash Lee Jones on her way to knocking out Dave Hunke.

    Welcome to UNI Today.

  10. 4:41 As soon as Heather Frank completes the Swagger Vertical business plan.

  11. Maryam Banikarim cares only about Maryam Banikarim.

    Those who think otherwise are fools.

    When she hires a "friend" it's simply to advance her agenda.
    The woman's ego is HUGE.

  12. I'm holding out for Emperor of Swag.

  13. BINGO, 4:54. When another opportunity comes her way, she'll be out of here.

  14. Heather Frank's days are numbered. Finally! Now its time to get rid of HER friends. she has completely outclassed Maryam on that front.

  15. All these appointments are just insane. Where is all the money coming from to pay these people? There are virtually no ads in the newspaper. Who will get the shaft to pay for all the six figure salaries? I feel a furlough coming. Or worse.

  16. Most of these SVPs are in non print areas. No one is growing print. Before you all pounce I said most.

  17. Jim, maybe you can provide some answers to 10:53's question: How does USAToday pay for all these people? We can assume that they're all paid very well. Yet USAToday doesn't seem to have any advertising in the print version and we all know that digital doesn't rake in any big bucks. If Gannett is so concerned with saving money, why haven't they pulled the plug on USAToday instead of larding it up with a new complement of pricy executives.

  18. The fact that most vice prez are non print I get. Just tell me what any of them have done since signing on with the company. Just one that moves the ball in a revenue generating track. One new major advertiser. One big hotel or retail partner.

    Please don't bullshit us again about meeting goals without Defining them for the
    Rest of us.

    Finally make some hard decisions about the newsroom. The transformation has been a disaster. Repositioning staff where they are needed, namely making the website far more sophisticated and reader/advertiser friendly.

    Talk to some newsroom people over the next few weeks. There are good people who are angry, frustrated and despondent over how far the paper has fallen,quality wise. Boring writing, uninteresting story ideas and lackluster presentation isn't what a media company can successfully build it's future on.

  19. People must be hard pressed If they can do no better than a vice presidency at Gannett. My Space dying, NBC/ Univision losing slots in Comcast deal, so I see why these guys are interested in working for another media concern. But one with declining revenue and uninterested advertisers?

  20. 12:32 I can only guess that Corporate has given Publisher Hunke and his team additional monies needed to try to make this reorganization work.

    I have no idea how much these hires have cost. But, assuming a very low $175,000 per person -- including the cost of benefits -- those 23 would cost about $4 million a year.

    But that's likely too low by about $2 million: My guesstimate of the combined salaries/bonuses of Susie Ellwood and Tom Beusse.

    Ellwood is second only to Hunke, who got paid $2.5 million in 2010, and Beusse got $1 million in his previous job.

    So: $6 million total. Sounds like a lot, but that may well be just a drop in the bucket.

  21. Jim, don't forget the verticals team. Probably another $1.5 million to $2 million salaries and
    Wasted travel/freelance money.

  22. The sad thing is some high priced consultants advised Hunke and Martore to invest heavily in a broad management base. Consultants soak company, management continues to soak the company. A win win for the team.

  23. Let's not forget that Gannett is a very profitable company, thanks to print. Let's also not forget that Corporate wants the employees to think the sky is falling so they will continue to fight the good fight and swallow the furloughs because they're just grateful to have a job. I have been reading this blog for a few years now and the complaints are getting old and tiresome. If you're not looking for a job because you're just too plain lazy to do so, shame on you. If you've been trying to find other employment but haven't come across anything yet, good luck to you and stick with it. Something will come along eventually.

  24. Beusse was unemployed when he joined Gannett, like a lot of these new hires.

    Unemployed people can be bought much cheaper than those with a secure job.

  25. When is Buesse and his fat management team going to actually launch the damn sports network?

    These people are slower than Congress in making anything happen.

  26. Expense side increases with zero revenue growth to offset.

    Jim, what is the revenue of USAToday?

  27. Moon turned out to be the smartest executive at USAT simply by resigning when he did.

    USAT went drastically downhill soon after.

    Feels like all these hires are a desperate last effort to make something happen.

  28. 10:28 I don't know, and Gannett breaks out no information about individual papers. At one time, Corporate published the ad revenue trend line for USAT plus the number of paid ad pages.

    But that stopped after I started paying close attention to the data. Maybe it was a coincidence; I don't know.

    Having said that, I suspect USAT's ad revenue is somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million annually. Let's say circulation is another $200 million (That's a big, big, big guess there based on 1.8 million daily copies at only 50 cents each.)

    Total in revenue: $400 million.

    On the expense side, let's say 1,400 employees at $100,000 each including benefits: that's a payroll of $140 million.

    Newsprint cost? Distribution? I have no earthly idea.

    Now, bear in mind that Hunke told the Associated Press for a story last year that the paper squeezed out a profit in 2010. Who knows whether it was up/down in 2011, though.

  29. Jim, here is a good Post you did in Feb last year on USAT ad pages.

  30. From the Washington Post in Nov 2011:

    That’s not to say that national advertising revenue isn’t hurting as well. It’s more of a mixed bag. At the New York Times, for example, the division that mainly includes its flagship paper reported advertising revenue fell 6 percent to $156.1 million in Q3.

    Gannett, which publishes USAT, used to give some information on how that paper was doing by reporting paid ad pages, but the company ceased — to use the parlance of research analysts — to provide more color on the USAT front. Instead, Gannett reports that national advertising, including USAT, fell 17 percent. USAT represents a big chunk of Gannett’s national advertising.

  31. There is no way USAT made profit when Q3 showed down 17 percent.

    Looking forward to the Q4 numbers.

    In the last USAT meeting, it was mentioned sales met goal. This seems completely unbelievable now that I see Q3 numbers again. And the firing of two senior sales executives (Erdos and Hill) and the desperate move to add a new SVP of sales.

    Why so secretive if the numbers are indeed good? Because the numbers are NOT good.

  32. Numbers will be down again. This time the transformationnwill mean less bodies. Nothongnisngoing rightnat USA Today right now, unless you count management bloat.

  33. The only time a company blows out veterans and replaces them with "new blood" is when times are dire.

  34. The veterans cared abut USAToday. This new batch will blow in and blow out when the next gig comes around.

  35. Watch your backs all Gannett employees. It is obvious from reading this blog that history seems to repeat itself when it comes to MB.

    She'll be gone in one year's time, but will leave a massive path of destruction behind.

  36. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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